Homestead Exemptions In Washington State
A homestead exemption protects homeowners and the equity in their homes from judgment creditors seeking to collect on unsecured debts. Pursuant to RCW 6.13.010, a “homestead” is real or personal property that the owner uses as a residence. Washington allows for these homesteads to be protected for up to $125,000 of a home’s value. In the event that a judgment creditor seeks to collect on unsecured debt, per RCW 6.13.090, a lien is placed on the value of a homestead that exceeds the $125,000 exemption. Persons residing within a homestead need not complete any documentation to ensure the exemption is placed on their homestead as the exemption is automatic. In special circumstances (i.e. a person owns a home but does not yet reside in that home) the exemption is not automatically granted, however, and a formal “Declaration of Homestead” may be required to take advantage of the exemption. It is important to note that a homeowner owning multiple properties cannot hold a homestead exemption over more than one property, and the property containing the exemption must qualify as a homestead.
The Washington statute prescribing the homestead exemption, RCW 6.13, also presents several exceptions to the exemption. Debts secured by mechanic’s, laborer’s, or construction liens arising out of and against the particular property claimed by the homestead are not protected under the exemption, for example. The rationale is that such liens arose out of activities which improved the value of the home, and the homestead claimant should not be able to reap the benefits of such activities while retaining protection from the very persons who improved the value. The statute describes other exceptions to the homestead exemption, but many of these situations involve complicated circumstances. It is highly advisable to seek the counsel of an experienced lawyer to determine if and when such exceptions apply.
At Beresford Booth, our lawyers hold lengthy experience counseling individuals through real estate matters such as the application of the homestead exemption and how it applies to them. We would be pleased to sit down with you today and discuss any and all of your real estate matters.